Data Retrieval (Grosvenor) Review | Dragon User - Everygamegoing

Dragon User

Data Retrieval
By Grosvenor
Dragon 32

Published in Dragon User #053

Success For The Search

The introductory screen has a 1986 copyright message, but on the main menu the date is 1993. This, coupled with the tide, leads me to suspect that this program shares a common ancestry with the Salamander DRS System which was around in the early days of the Dragon. Never mind the history, what does it do and how well does it do it? Well basically it is a database system and it works extremely well.

The program is supplied on cassette, but the manual gives instructions for transferring to disc (CLEAR 100 first if transferring to disc - that's been omitted from the manual!), In its cassette form the program copes with 22,000 characters of data, all held in memory at once. A disc file can be as large as 154,000 characters and is treated as up to 7 segments of 22,000 characters each. Data is stored as a number of records, each of which can contain up to 480 characters split into 36 fields. Data is input and processed via very flexible user-definable screen layouts, one record displayed at a time with full screen editing facilities. The program is written in machine code and works very fast.

So how do you use the program? Having loaded it, a menu is displayed suggesting you press D to design your screen layout. You then set up the format of the screen and the number, size and type of each field in the record; you can also add titles to the fields. The photograph shows a typical format screen, defining 15 fields (A-L are alphanumeric and 1-5 are numeric). For example, the format for "BIRTHDAY" defines that up to three entries may be made consisting of a two digit number for the date, a three character month and a four digit year. Having completed the screen layout this is saved and you return to the main menu. You now start adding data by selecting the A command. Data can only be entered into the defined fields and must be of the correct type, i.e. only numbers entered into a nomeric field. As each field is filled the next is selected by using either the ENTER key or the cursor arrow keys. You do not need to fill all fields, the program copes quite happily with empty ones.

When a record is complete, you press BREAK and are prompted by 'Add' to press ENTER, you are then prompted by "OK, Next/Menu N" so press ENTER yet again and you are ready to start filling the next record. I found this tedious, but it works and gives maximum flexibility, The second photograph shows a typical data record. You can continue entering data until you have completed a full list of your friends, their addresses, children's ages or whatever.

Having got your database, what can you do with it? The first thing is to save it on tape or disc in case of power failure! Then you can reformat it if you don't like the original screen design, update records, print it out either in total or selectively, but most importantly you can do searches on it. You enter 'S' from the main menu and you are presented with a blank version of your original screen design. Into this you can enter search characters in any position, a range forthe initial character of a field and ranges for numerical values, e.g. (10; the program then ANDs these all together and does a search for all records that meet all these criteria, e.g. you could do a search for all people whose surnames begin with a letter between J and P, who live in Northampton and have a child less than 5 years old: or look for all music by Beethoven recorded by the ISO in 1984.

Just a few minor criticisms of the program: it's written for the Dragon 32 and can't take advantage of the extra storage provided by the D64. As with a great many Dragon programs, you are commitlted to upper case letters only. It would have been nice if they had added a lower case driver using the graphics screen (although this would reduce storage capacity), and three keystrokes to enter each new data record really is a bit tedious. Finally, if you are not lucky enough to have a disc drive, I don't think its really worth bothering to try and do anything serious with any database program using cassette storage, it's just too slow, you could have looked up a written version of the information in half the time.

To sum up, if you've got a Dragon with a disc drive, and you've not got Flex or OS9, and you want to make serious use of it, then this really is a must for you. It's a piece of professional software at an amateur price.

Bernice Hennessy